The Defense: Rich
The league’s most dominant center will in all likelihood remain with the Magic next year and if last season is any indication, he’s getting better all the time.
But for the Magic to stop the Heat next year, they would need to get a “pure” point guard like Steve Nash, Chris Paul or Deron Williams who are capable of reinvigorating the team and making everyone else around them better.
With Superman as the main cornerstone and a pure point guard of superstar status covering his back, the Magic will contend with Miami.
The Grizzlies have an abundance of youth, talent and athleticism and they just proved that they can play with the big boys as they eliminated the shell-shocked Spurs in the first round.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both fringe superstars and excellent post-game players who are playing like superstars.
Add the injured Rudy Gay into the mix with a playoff-tested team and you have a legitimate contender.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a very young and explosive club full of promise as reflected by their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
There are, however, two big problems facing the Thunder, which need to be rectified if they hope to win a championship.
First and foremost is Kendrick Perkins, a hole in the middle without the help of his green pal, Kevin Garnett. Perkins’ unproductive play of single-digit rebounds and points at the bottom of the spectrum is absolutely unimpressive and he needs to be replaced.
Secondly, Russell Westbrook is playing out of position and should be moved to the shooting guard spot (his position in college). A point guard should help make his teammates better by facilitating the offense, something that Westbrook clearly does not do. Any “pure” point guard will do, including the likes of Chris Paul, Steve Nash or Deron Williams.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers look like an extremely balanced team on both ends of the court and they are an offensive team with a very solid and gritty defensive game.
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven that he is one of the best power forwards in the game, and Gerald Wallace is a driving force of talent and sheer determination. Marcus Camby is still a major defensive force among many on this team, including Wes Mathews and Nicolas Batum.
And now, the Blazers got exactly what they needed in a recent trade with the Denver Nuggets, by acquiring an uptempo point guard in Raymond Felton.
Everyone should be scared about the Blazers next year.
The Oldies but Goodies: Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks and Celtics
What do the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks and Celtics all have in common besides the fact that their average ages are in their 30s?
They all are known for starting the season impressively by blowing by opponents and in the process, putting together one win streak after another.
And with the exception of the Mavs last season, they all looked drained and tired in the playoffs.
But next season could be a shortened season due to the complicated process of the CBA. Give these guys a 50-game season and they will sprint to the very end.
These Guys Don’t Make the Cut
The New York Knicks will be “D’Antoni” exciting next year, but that defenseless approach will not win championships.
Add to the fact that both Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were both incapable of helping top five teams (Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets) make it out of the West during the several years they played on those teams.
Sure, a “pure” point guard like Chris Paul will help the Knicks' resolve, but in order to win they will also need a center and a better bench.
Sending D'Antoni packing for a defensive-minded coach will also be paramount to the Knicks’ success—something that will not happen next season.
The Chicago Bulls' play against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals was so unimpressive that it left much to be desired, especially for a team that seemed to have total balance.
A resolution must be found for Carlos Boozer’s tendency to vanish in the playoffs (a most unfortunate residue from his Utah days) as well as Derrick Rose’s one-man, Allen Iverson-like offensive show. But at least Iverson could take a million shots without shooting 30 percent or less.
Either the Heat exposed the Bulls or both Rose and Boozer played while high on drugs. While there is no answer for a perennial playoff failure like Boozer, the Bulls might be better off moving Rose to the shooting guard spot.
After all, not only does Rose play like a shooting guard, but a point guard who is also the team’s No. 1 scoring option is a contradiction in terms—especially when considering the definition of a point guard.